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Performance art for homebodies

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ONGOING 4/14-5/7

We all feel stuck from time to time: in our jobs, our relationships, our bodies. It can be paralyzing -- that sense of being the perpetual fish in the bowl. But performance artist Erika Shuch posits that it can also be freeing. In her latest work, one window, Shuch and her company, collectively known as the ESP Project, investigate the spaces we are forced, or forcefully compelled, to occupy. "My goal is to show the range of confinement: the sweetness and hardness, and how these things coexist," said Shuch in a recent phone interview. It's clear that being stuck can be troubling, she admits, but it can also be grounding. "When we're confined in a relationship, we're confined in there for a reason. There's something good that's holding us there."

ESP's first full-length endeavor during its residency at Intersection for the Arts, one window was developed over the last nine months with three dancers, one actor, and one beat-boxer/accordion player/violinist. It takes place in a world of plastic and wood; in fact, much of the set is erected during the show as the performers build the walls that surround them.

Though the piece moves through many locations and emotional spaces, it centers on the relationship between two people in an apartment. Like the choreography and the set, the text, written by local playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, also depicts the dual nature of confinement. Says one character, "I have this dream. I'm underwater, yet I can breathe." One window opens Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through May 7) at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is $9-15; call 626-3311 or visit www.theintersection.org.
-- Karen Macklin

Laugh-In

FRI-SAT 4/15-16

With a CD called Funnier Than God and a promise that its show is "more fun than a gorilla with a martini," Sacramento-based quintet I Can't Believe It's Not Comedy isn't shy about the appeal of its irreverent tomfoolery. The group brings its warped humor to San Francisco for two nights with skits like "Satan's Receptionist," in which a self-pitying nobody seeks advice from a hellish secretary, as well as a hilarious think piece that skewers a vegan public service announcement. The guffaws begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and 8 and 10 p.m. on Saturday at the Dark Room, 2263 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 401-7987 or visit www.darkroomsf.com.
-- Jane Tunks

The Wonder Years
A teenage girl living way beyond her age

ONGOING 4/14-5/21

Navigating the terrain of a rocky adolescence is hard enough. But for Kimberly Akimbo, the protagonist of a play of the same name, it's even harder. Turns out the whip-smart whippersnapper has progeria, a disease that makes her age at four times the normal rate. This clever plot device ensures all sorts of awkward situations. For example, Kimberly experiences the hot flashes of menopause before the butterflies of a first kiss. But despite a drunkard father, a loudmouth mother, and an ex-con aunt, the girl offers clear-eyed meditations on the trials of life and death -- and yet still experiences all the joy and pain of first love, with a fellow misfit. The play previews on Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through May 21) at the SF Playhouse, 536 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $15-50; call 677-9596 or go to www.sfplayhouse.org.
-- Jane Tunks

Toy Story
Shake, rattle, and roll

THURS 4/14

Toychestra's history alone will probably charm you. In 1996, the band formed when Paula Alexander recruited a group of women to play a music festival at Hotel Utah. At their first practice together, someone brought instruments, but Lexa Walsh brought toys -- toy trumpets, toy pianos, and so on -- and the playthings won out, setting off the band's 10-year run creating adult music with kid instruments.

Onstage Toychestra wears appropriately wacky wigs and costumes, playing experimental music from ambient to kitsch to loose covers of Martin Denny and Dvorák. But the group is no joke: It recently hooked up with avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith and cut a CD, What Leave Behind, and toured Europe. The racket starts as Emma Zunz opens at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com.
-- Michael Leaverton

Feel Like Makin' ...

FRI 4/15

Our friend Allen called us one day. "You should see the Lovemakers," he said. We were impressed; Allen doesn't like much of anything, usually. Why this band? "They're super-hot. And the lead girl, she's really sexy!" Sheesh. But this guy has great taste in music, so we checked out the Lovemakers, even though we were sure weightlifting had rotted our pal's brain. We're happy to report that we were wrong, and he was right. The Lovemakers are a fantastic act with good songs ("Internet Girlfriend," for example) and a silly attitude toward being super-hot. DJ Shaun Slaughter and Stiletta open at 9:30 p.m. at Café Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $10; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com.

-- Hiya Swanhuyser

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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